What is Long-Tail Search? (and how you can use it to your benefit)

The term Long tail search was derived by an article written some time ago in wired magazine. The theory behind the term is that the amount of revenue generated via the quantity of less popular obscure searches vs. the number of top tier searches can be far greater.

Because I do quite a bit of work with real estate websites I will use the real estate vertical as an example, however, this applies across all verticals:

Many real estate websites optimize for “top-tier” keywords like “real estate” or “homes for sale” and don’t realize that it takes a whole lot more than just optimization to get a site to rank in Google for these terms. Many sites don’t take into consideration the amount of traffic that comes from searches outside of that generic query space. Many times a site can be optimized for long-tail phrases without much effort beyond writing a quality article for your target audience.

We all know that by searching the phrase Real Estate in Google you will find millions of results. The competition for terms such as these are fierce to say the least. There are no less that 19,500,000 websites right now competing for the term “real estate”. These are sites that have specifically been optimized to include the term real estate.

Searching for California Real Estate will narrow the results a bit. Searching on a city level, the result may get a bit more narrow, however, the competition in these local searches can be fierce as well. If I am in Los Angeles and want to target the term “Los Angeles Real Estate” I will find that I have more than 700,000 websites competing for the phrase. With just 10 slots on the front page of Google, the chances are slim that I will get in that space without a pretty sizable marketing budget.

How would you ever be found on a search engine in Los Angeles? The answer is through long-tail search! When you write your articles and publish them to your site, they are generally filled with great terms that you probably wouldn’t think someone would search for. The searched keywords may not even be in the same sentence, but search engines can find relevance due to the amount of times it sees the keywords in relation and in proximity to other relevant text on your page.

Let’s say I am looking for a home and I know I want to live in Los Angeles. I’ve searched the national sites like Zillow or Realtor.com and I have narrowed it down to a particular area and type of home I like. I’ve decided that I want a 2 bedroom condo in the Calabasas area. I, like most consumers, know enough about computers to know that search engines can find just about anything. I head on over to Google and drop in the phrase “2 bedroom condo for sale in Calabasas” (A nice long-tail key phrase). I find much less search results, but they are more specific to what I want.

Today most people know that they can get ultra-detailed in searches and find what they are looking for faster than dredging through the results that are found when looking up a top tier or national level search term. Performing a search for the words “real estate” would mean I would have to search through not only the search engine results, but I would also need to search through whichever national site I choose from those search results.

By nature, we are a society of people who want things now, and as search technology progresses we will likely see even more relevant search results on a local level. This means people that are searching for a long query string like “2 bedroom condo in Calabassas that allows dogs” will likely find just what they are looking for and hopefully it will be on your site because you just happened to have written about this lovely condo that’s for sale right around the corner from the local dog park.

Conclusion: Publish quality/unique content and watch your long-tail search volume grow over and above your top tier keywords.


Samara Hart

Digital marketing strategist with over 15 years experience strategizing and managing Google Ads, Facebook/Meta ads, and peripheral networks. Increasingly, "big tech" ad networks are overreaching and looking to make gains at the expense of advertisers. It is my job to bridge the gap for my clients and generate the highest possible ROI without wasted ad spend. I work in my client's best interest, not Google's or Meta's. Contact Me or Follow me on Twitter

Last Updated: 29 Dec 2020